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Heat Waves

Topic Overview

The National Weather Service developed the heat index to help people identify days when the risk for a heat illness is higher than normal. During a heat wave, the heat index is excessive for many days in a row. Everyone has an increased risk for a heat-related illness during a heat wave.

A heat-related illness can be more serious for:

  • Older adults, who may not notice excessive heat, do not sweat as effectively, or do not feel thirsty.
  • Small children, who can't transfer heat very well.
  • People with chronic medical conditions.
  • People taking medicines, such as heart medicines or tranquilizers, for serious psychiatric disorders or depression.
  • People with weight problems.
  • People with alcohol or drug use problems.
  • People with mental health or developmental problems.

Other things that affect a person's risk for a heat-related illness during a heat wave include:

  • Living in cities, because heat is trapped by tall buildings and air pollutants.
  • Living alone.
  • Not having cooling devices, such as fans or air-conditioning.

Related Information

Credits

Current as of: July 1, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine